Dr Caroline Starkey


I am a sociologist of religion, with a particular interest in the various ways in which religion is experienced in contemporary Britain.  I obtained my PhD from the University of Leeds in 2015.   Prior to this, I recieved my undergraduate degree in History from the University of York (1999), and took two MA degrees, first in Social Work (Hull, 2003, DipSw) and later in Religion and Public Life at Leeds (2008).  From 2003–2010, I was a social worker in various statutory and voluntary settings.  

I joined the University as a Teaching and Research Fellow in 2015, and was appointed as Associate Professor in 2018. 

Alongside my research, I am a member of the British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group (SocRel), and the Co-Chair of the American Academy of Religion Buddhism in the West Unit. 


  • Director of Liberal Arts

Research interests

My research is focused on religion and spirituality in contemporary Britain, and spans a range of traditions, themes and approaches. In my research career, I have frequently focused on the establishment, development and adaptation of religions of Asian origin within the British Isles, particularly Buddhism and Jainism. I have researched, and published on, gender and ordination issues in contemporary British Buddhism and am particularly interested in the narratives of 'Westerners' who convert to Buddhism and what this tells us about religious belonging in contemporary Britain.  I conducted the first national survey of Buddhist and Jain buildings in England (as part of a larger research project, funded by Historic England with Professor Emma Tomalin) and I continue to enjoy piecing together the rich and varied sociologies of minority faith communities through their built landscapes, and much of my ongoing work has an investigation of religion, space, and place at its heart.  I have also undertaken research work on the Church of England and attitudes towards sexuality with Professor Grace Davie (Exeter).

I am currently working on a project funded by the International Research Network for the Study of Science and Belief in Society (with Dr Adam Powell, University of Durham, and Dr Josh Bullock, Kingston University). This project, called Weekday Worldviews, is the first sociological investigation of the relationships between worldviews and psychological wellbeing amongst those attending public psychic events in England, and specifically explores ideas of social class, gender and contemporary alternative spirituality.  


<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/dir/research-projects">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>

Professional memberships

  • UK Association for Buddhist Studies
  • British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group (SocRel)
  • American Academy of Religion

Student education

I have taught on a range of modules within the School that cover the social scientific study of religion, including research methods, across undergraduate and post-graduate levels. My current focus is leading and teaching on our interdisciplinary Liberal Arts programme. 

Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Religion and Public Life
  • Gender
  • Heritage
  • PRIA
  • Religion
  • Theology and Religious Studies
  • Women, Gender, and Sexuality

Current postgraduate researchers

<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="https://phd.leeds.ac.uk">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>